Interdisciplinarity

Coursework, Creative Arts 1.1 Experience Creative Arts, Creative Arts BA (Hons), Project 3: Understanding Interdisciplinarity, Research & Reflection

I thought it would be useful to write down some of my ideas about what interdisciplinarity is before I properly embark on this unit, to see how my ideas evolve as I learn more about it.

For me, it seems a modern phenomenon to separate out ideas into academic subjects. When you look back at ancient times in the early days of academia, people studied far more holistically. The greats of Aristotle, Plato etc weren’t experts in one subject, they interweaved ideas to make new areas of study. Then over time, we seem to have become more and more streamlined in our thinking. In doing so, I think we have lost a lot of creativity and thinking.

Interdisciplinary working uses a range of disciplines to create something new. It involves transforming and creating a new language out of an integrated approach to both thinking and working. Its practical nature reaches outwards and therefore requires us to form connections with ideas from a broader cultural context.

OCA learning materials

This is getting back to a purer ore innate way of looking at the world. It is how children discover new things and learn. Young children don’t do “Art” and “Maths”, they make marks in the mud, count buttons, construct sculptures from sticks, make music using spoons and their plates.

Interdisciplinarity Definitions

Image from learn.oca.ac.uk

I like this visual image on the oca learn site to explain what interdisciplinarity is. It goes beyond a cross-discipline (viewing one discipline from the position of another) and multidiscipline (working with different areas of study at the same time as separate entities) to more integrative practice.

Interdisciplinarity is the study of two or more disciplines with concepts from both the arts and broader global views with the aim to form something new (hybridised).

Lucian Freud: Real Lives

Exhibitions

Tate Liverpool is showing a collection of Lucian Freud’s work throughout the seven decades of his working life in the Real Lives exhibition.

Lucian Freud

Lucian Freud was a German-born artist who lived between 1922-2011 and has been described as one of the leading figurative painters of the twentieth century. He explored portraiture in-depth and painted from life getting his models to pose in the studio for him. Some of the models sat for him for months meaning he developed a very intense relationship with them. He also painted self-portraits with the same intensity.

Early Works

Freud started by painting himself and his neighbours in the post-war period. You can already see the high attention to detail in his paintings. In Man with a Thistle, paint was in short supply after the war and so he used it sparingly, reportingly mixing it with household paints to make it go further.

Out of all the portraits on show, this is one that resonated with me. It is an artist starting out on their journey and somehow you feel that in the painting. By bringing the thistle in detracts from the figure slightly and I think this shows some of Freud’s own insecurities. He doesn’t want to be the star of the painting, it is almost a painting of a thistle that happens to have a man in the background.

Portraits

When Freud starts painting other people like Charlie Lumley, Kitty Garman, Bella Freud, Kai Boyt, Lucie Freud and Celia Paul the person becomes the star, unlike the earlier self-portrait. Freud seems much more at ease painting other people.

What struck me about the girl with the white dog, in particular, is the level of detail. When you look closely at the dressing gown cord, you see how intensely he looked whilst painting. The textures he has created with the fabrics too makes them come alive. So even though the colours are still very muted, the painting has vibrance.

Plants

Freud often turned his attention to plants during periods of difficulty with relationships. My favourite piece in the whole exhibition is Two Plants. I was drawn to it as perhaps I resonate as I often struggle with people and turn to nature and plants for comfort. Like his portraits, the amount of detail is incredible and it must have been a very meditative experience painting all the individual leaves.

Two Leaves, 1977-1980 Lucian Freud

Apple Image Idea

Sketchbook, Other Projects, Images

I came across this saying and it made me think about the exercise on apples.

It is important to live as if we are always on the eve of a great discovery and prepare to welcome it as completely, intimately and ardently as we can.

Unknown Author

The idea of discovery made me think of apples and knowledge but in a childlike way where everything is a chance to learn. We sometimes lose that as adults but this reminds me to get back into the playful mode.

I experimented with the colour, inspired by some of the scenes in Amelie where a green filter is applied to make the red of the apple stand out more.

The font is meant to look Biblical, emphasised with the capitalising of “Eve” to remind us of one of the symbols of knowledge in the Book of Genesis.

This was a quick mock-up just using Canva, but it is an idea I may develop further. At the moment it feels too “social media” as if it is something that people share for inspiration without truly reflecting on it.

Liverpool Mountain – Ugo Rondinone

Creative Arts 1.1 Experience Creative Arts, Creative Arts BA (Hons), Exhibitions, Research & Reflection

Liverpool Mountain (Rondinone, 2018) is a 10-metre high sculpture situated outside Tate Liverpool in the heart of Liverpool’ historic waterfront. It consists of five vertically stacked rocks painted in bright fluorescent colours. The rocks are balanced to appear to defy gravity and contrasts strongly against the more muted colours of the Liverpool buildings and sky. It is thought to be reminiscent of ancient totems and has a land art feel to it too. It has taken a natural material of rock and placed it in a very unnatural position with manmade colour added.

Ugo Rondinone is a Swiss-born artist now based in New York. Liverpool Mountain is part of his Seven Magic Mountains project in Nevada and Miami.

The work has been described as being “instragammable” and I can see why. It is imposing, seeks attention and cries out for its photo taken.

It contrasts with other land art I have seen and am aware of. This isn’t made to feel part of the natural world, the opposite. To me, it suggests a reflection on human’s interference with the land. The artist has taken natural rocks and stripped away all their natural beauty to make something that looks artificial. I think this also plays into the “Instagram” appeal as isn’t that what we do on social media. We take natural beauty and cover it in artificial filters to the point sometimes the original person no longer resembles their online image.

References

Rondinone, U. (2018). Liverpool Mountain. [Sculpture].

Assignment Two – Encountering Time

Assignment 2 - Encountering Time, Assignments, Creative Arts 1.1 Experience Creative Arts, Creative Arts BA (Hons)

Part 1 – Reflection

I feel in terms of academic theory about creative arts I have gained a great deal in this project. It has been quite theory-heavy overall and I am looking forward to a chance to put some of these ideas into my own pieces of work. However, despite the theory work, it has been another great eye-opener in terms of finding new artists work and ideas to explore and reflect on.

The exercise on ‘Formal Elements‘ at the beginning of this unit both helped and hindered me. It was a great help to contemplate some artistic theory across disciplines and a great chance for me to formalise some of the ideas I already knew but perhaps don’t always think about when looking at pieces of work. However, it also highlighted to me the difficulty when applying these rather outdated lists to contemporary pieces that span disciplines. For example, I struggled to think about how to apply these formal elements to works such as installations and land art. I did find it useful to apply these lists to a piece like The Hedonistic Imperative (Ziegler, 2006) and the films The Story of the Last Chrysanthemums and Amelie.

I appreciated the chance to return to one of my favourite pieces from the Project One lecture. Future Library (Paterson, 2014) and this gave me the opportunity to use the OCA library to find some existing analysis on this work. By reading other critical analyses it gave me a new insight into the artwork. When I had considered the piece, I focused on the environmental message and the role of the forest and the trees, by reading other critiques, I was able to grasp the view of the contributions of the authors. They too will never see the response to their work, they are unlikely to be alive when their work finally gets published and enjoyed. I agree with Mickiewicz the most difficult question of all is “if people will even understand the work, will people even read paper-based books at all in 100 years time”? (Mickiewicz, 2017).

Another piece of work I discovered in this project was Doug Aitken’s mirror (Aitken, 2013) and I started to compare this to what still stands out as my favourite piece in this course so far The Spiral Jetty. This is a comparison I started here but would like to return to as it gives me some ideas of how I could take some of Smithson’s ideas and bring a modern spin on them.

Having the chance to look at a section of The Road by Cormac McCarthy reminded me of my love of great writing and I am in the process of reading the whole book. Concentrating on literature again gave me some ideas about writing something more creative to go along with some of the artworks. I wonder what it will be like in the future when someone in one hundred years time finds the Future Library? There is also the idea to take some of the visual imagery in The Road and create a Toby Ziegler style image.

The exercise on apples and reading visual communication is a part I feel I rushed through. I think I naturally look for the meanings and context in pieces and so perhaps I felt I didn’t need to focus too much here but also time was against me to get through to the assignment piece. In my past, I have spent a lot of time reading mythologies and religious texts from different eras and so I do analyse symbols and semiotics. I became aware through this work that I am very euro-centric though and to expand into other parts of the world is something I would like to do.

The final section on comparative analysis gave me more artists and work to research and contemplate. I decided to focus on Alice Kettle and Ibrahim Mahama as I found their contrasting use of textiles to highlight the stories of people very inspiring. I felt these pieces moved us away from “Time” and more into “Place” as a concept to look at.

Assignment One Feedback:

Based on the feedback I received for Assignment One, I have tried to incorporate some of the action points from my tutor.

  • When thinking about action points for future work, I am now taking time to think about the steps to achieve those points as detailed below.
  • The book How to Write About Contemporary Art (Williams, 2014) was an excellent suggestion and I have read it once through for this project but I intend to come back to many of the ideas as the course progresses. There are so many nuggets of information in the book that I have highlighted to return to.
  • I feel I am now developing my use of the Harvard referencing structure in my learning log and will continue to do so.
  • When I get the chance I discuss ideas with peers and take part in the group work. I have attended Doug’s Wednesday sessions which have been a great opportunity to chat with other people on the programme and I am very active in our group chat. I am down to take part in one of the group workshops soon.

Learning Action Points:

There are still many things I would like to improve going forwards and some of the points from the assignment one feedback, I feel I haven’t had time to develop yet.

  • Explore different ways of presenting ideas e.g. through lens based media. I do want to incorporate more of this into my learning log. I need to sit down and plan the next project in more detail with more realistic time frames. When I have submitted this assignment and before starting the next exercise I am going to read through the project as a whole first to plan where I can start doing this. Time was against me in this project due to the holidays but I will have more time going forwards.
  • I want to include more images of my own work in the learning log. I feel I have got into the analysing of other people’s work but am neglecting my own practice. Again, with better preparation and planning of the whole project I feel I could achieve this and have the opportunity to experiment with more ideas and materials. Part two below will list some of my current ideas I want to develop.
  • I need to get back into the good study habits of doing something every day like when I first started. I feel like this project has had some time pressue of my own doing but also not helped by the fact I am interested in all the sections mentioned. I find it hard to not put 100% into all of the exercises and am having to learn to be a bit more selective about where I spend my time. Again, I think planning the start of the next project will help me do that but I am aware of becoming too rigid and not allowing my work to find a natural flow.

Part 2 – Ideas to Develop

I still have some ideas from Project One that I want to return to. I really like the idea from my last feedback about using the hole punching as a prop for photographic or video work in different locations, connecting the word time to specific situations, and allowing you to capture the light through the perforations in the paper, by displaying it on a window, or taking it outside and documenting at different times of day to emphasise the context of the work.

There is also the theme of spirals that I am drawn to and would like to experiment somehow with the hole punch technique in combination with spirals.

Toby Ziegler’s technique really inspired me too in this project and I have some ideas about how to incorporate some of his styles with a spiral based time element. I just need to sit down and develop the idea!

As mentioned in my reflection, an idea I am interested in developing is how to take the principles of Smithson’s Spiral Jetty and modernise them through the use of moving images. I take inspiration from a piece by Doug Aitken Mirror that I stumbled upon when looking at the ArtXHistory archive.

Part 3 – Ideas on Time

When I look back across the whole of this project, I am not sure my ideas on time have changed that much. However, I have learned a great deal of research and analytical skills that help me to look at pieces of work with a more focused and attuned vision. I am developing the idea of time and place being linked, especially with the works in the comparative analysis section.

Part 4 – Question

  1. Using formal elements is useful when looking at quite traditional forms of art, but I wondered if there were any good resources for how to analyse something like land art or installations that perhaps don’t fit into a neat category of visual art?
  2. Is it okay to write assignments like this where the assignment ends up being more of a summary and signpost to the other posts on here? I do feel like I rushed this reflection and it ended up being more of a guide to what I have done in this project than a true reflection.

References

Aitken, D. (2013). Mirror.

Mickiewicz, P. (2017), “The Library of 2114”, Esse, vol. 89, pp. 40-49.

Paterson, K. Future Library. [online] futurelibrary.no. Available at: https://www.futurelibrary.no

Ziegler, T. (2006). The Hedonistic Imperative. [Oil Paint, Gold Leaf and Graphite on Canvas] Available at: https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/ziegler-the-hedonistic-imperative-2nd-version-t12308.

Williams, G. (2014). How to write about contemporary art. Thames & Hudson.

Comparison of Alice Kettle and Ibrahim Mahama

Coursework, Creative Arts 1.1 Experience Creative Arts, Creative Arts BA (Hons), Project 2: Encountering Time - A Critical Analysis, Research & Reflection

For exercise 4: Comparative Analysis, I have chosen to compare Alice Kettle’s Thread Bearing Witness (2018) and Ibrahim Mahama, Material Effects (2015.

I was drawn to compare these two due to their contrasting use of fabric in their work. Fabric is something I work with a lot and it was interesting to see two vastly different employments of it with a lot of commonalities too.

Venn diagram comparing Alice Kettle and Ibrahim Mahama

The overall aesthetic of the two pieces couldn’t be more different. They both do construct with fabric as the basis but in a very different way. Thread Bearing Witness is a large scale work involving highly coloured and detailed embroidery (Whitworth, 2018). The pieces take fabric as the basis but then teams of people embroider using a huge variety of stitches and colours and a plethora of designs. The connecting feature is the theme of cultural heritage, migration and the role of embroidery as a domestic practice worldwide. The variety in the designs is as wide as the people creating them and each person has a story to tell through their creation. When they are displayed together there is a sea of colour from blues, reds, turquoise to golds and yellows and everything in between. Material Effects also uses fabric as the basis but takes a monotone look due to brown jute being the only fabric used. The effect is a wall of brown, again huge in scale but this time the focus isn’t on the variety of stitches and fabric techniques, the impact is in only one significant fabric being used throughout (MSU, 2020). Mahama only use jute to make his giant installations. Jute is a symbol of global industrialism and the associated labour with it. There are also strong links to the colonial past and its historical link to empire. Jute is predominantly produced in a few countries in Asia and Latin America and then circulates worldwide through international trade networks (Amarica, 2018). 

A strong theme that runs through both pieces is the politics of movement. In Kettle’s case, the focus is on the movement of people through migration and the impact on people’s lives. Migration is one of the defining issues of our time and will continue to be through climate change and global conflict. It can be easy for us in the West to sit and watch the news about refugees and migrants and detach ourselves from it. Kettle brings the people behind the news into the limelight and gives them an opportunity to share their creativity and stories. In a similar way, with his use of jute, Mahama highlights the hidden people in the global labour force. By using a material directly linked to Ghanian cocoa production, he shows the integral role African labourers have in producing goods for western consumers. Through this, both are giving a voice and stage to marginalised people.

The production of both pieces although they use very different techniques have some similarities. Both are produced by cooperation and community. Kettle gets groups of migrants together to produce pieces for the collection and Mahama and his many collaborators work together in communal settings, which are often former sites of production — abandoned factories, train stations, markets, or courtyards.

References

Ibrahim Mahama, Material Effects, (2015)

Coursework, Creative Arts 1.1 Experience Creative Arts, Creative Arts BA (Hons), Project 2: Encountering Time - A Critical Analysis, Research & Reflection

Ibrahim Mahama is an artist from Ghana that creates spaces of social intervention that probe the boundaries between artistic antagonism and civil participation. His preferred medium is that of the burlap sack – in particular, that which was imported by the Ghana Cocoa Board and repurposed by charcoal sellers (MSU, 2020).

Mahama only use jute to make his giant installations. Jute is a symbol of global industrialism and the associated labour with it. There are also strong links to the colonial past and its historical link to empire. Jute is predominantly produced in a few countries in Asia and Latin America and then circulates worldwide through international trade networks (Amarica, 2018). There is a huge amount of physical labour involved in the production of jute sacks and Mahama highlights this by adding one more step in the process – his deconstruction and reassembly into gigantic works of art. Mahama and his many collaborators work together in communal settings, which are often former sites of production — abandoned factories, train stations, markets, or courtyards (Documenta14, 2015). Mahama is trying to highlight the people behind the processes as described by Amarica (2018) ” Regardless of the integral role played by African labourers in this industry, their efforts and the lived realities of rural poverty remain relatively unknown to Western consumers enjoying a decadent and luxurious product, such as chocolate. Here, global capitalist markets not only estrange Western consumers from Ghanaian labourers but render the latter invisible. By making use of a material directly tied to Ghanaian cocoa production, Mahama brings these discussions to the forefront and makes clear that we are all connected to, if not complicit in, the unequal power relations of commodity production”.

References

Amarica, S. (2018). Jute, Entangled Labour, and Global Capital. Esse, 94, pp.52–59.

Documenta14 (2015). Ibrahim Mahama. [online] http://www.documenta14.de. Available at: https://www.documenta14.de/en/artists/13704/ibrahim-mahama.

Michigan State University (2020). MSU Broad. [online] msu broad. Available at: https://broadmuseum.msu.edu/node/408.

Alice Kettle’s Thread Bearing Witness (2018)

Coursework, Creative Arts 1.1 Experience Creative Arts, Creative Arts BA (Hons), Project 2: Encountering Time - A Critical Analysis, Research & Reflection

Alice Kettle is an internationally acclaimed and respected embroidery artist who has challenged the boundaries of embroidery through her ambition to work to a scale quite immeasurable and in some cases almost beyond belief; Kettle is one of the key voices in the piece of work Thread Bearing Witness (Mitchison, 2018).

Thread Bearing Witness was a major series of large textiles, and other works, shown at the Whitworth, Manchester, that considered cultural heritage, refugee displacement and movement, while engaging with individual migrants and their creativity within the wider context of the global refugee crisis (Whitworth, 2018). It included collaborative works with refugees from Dunkirk, North West & South England made through contribution and co-creation and explore creativity as resilience the intangible cultural heritage skills of refugee women, children and unaccompanied minors. It embraced personal testimonies and textiles roles from the domestic to the spectacular and a chronicle of shared making (Manchester School of Art, 2021).

Thread Bearing Witness mainly covers the topic of migration, which is one of the defining issues of our time. Kettle uses textiles as a powerful medium through which to explore themes of cultural heritage, journeys and displacement. Embroidery is a domestic practice representing home-making, it is steeped in the history of trade routes with its global connections to production and pattern. It has also been used across time to portray world events, for example, the Bayeux Tapestry.

References

Comparative Analysis

Coursework, Creative Arts 1.1 Experience Creative Arts, Creative Arts BA (Hons), Project 2: Encountering Time - A Critical Analysis, Research & Reflection

Comparative analysis can be a way to deepen analysis and to give a fuller consideration of a subject or artist.

Things to consider:

  • Frame of reference – what is the theme, idea, question, or problem you are hoping to explore?
  • The grounds for comparison – why have you chosen these particular examples and do they fit into your meaningful argument?
  • Structure – will you work through each example individually as they build on each other? Or will you go point by point to compare aspects of each work?

Comparative Analysis of El Anatsui and William Kentridge

From The Shape of Time lecture, I have chosen to compare the work by El Anatsui and William Kentridge. Both are African artists who have produced work on the theme of time. When I initially watched the lecture, both artists grabbed my attention for techniques that I wanted to try and so I would like to explore their methods here.

El Anatsui is a sculptor from Ghana who now lives and works in Nigeria. He transforms simple, everyday materials into striking large-scale installations (Tate, 2016). William Kentridge is from a very different part of Africa, South Africa and is best known for his prints, drawings and animated films. His films are constructed by filming a drawing, making erasures and changes, and filming it again (Tate, 2010).

The techniques and media are different between the two artists but there are some fundamentals that are very similar. The theme of transformation over time runs through both sets of work. El Anatsui takes materials that he finds locally that have been discarded and there is a painstaking transformation of them into works of art. It is a very labour intensive process that turns the discarded into something beautiful. There is a strong theme of the value of time and how with enough time we can create wonders from very little, but that works of art require patience and effort. There is a similar concept with William Kentridge who does one initial drawing and then transforms it over time to create the final piece. To do so, he painstakingly erases and redraws the figures to take a new shot each time. Again, there is a labour of love and how a piece of art can evolve with time.

Another theme that runs through both artists’ work is the destruction of the natural world across different parts of Africa. With El Antsui the environmental connection comes from the use of the recycled items he finds. He highlights that there are materials dumped that can be used to create again and that in some parts of the world people have no choice but to reuse what they find. His use of bottle caps hints at topics such as global consumerism, waste and its history, including slavery. Kentridge too covers these themes. In Drawings for Projection the scene is set in a devastated Johanessburg landscape here you see factories, mine dumps and slime dams. With his style, you get the impression of the human impact on the landscape and how we have destroyed it. In Felix in Exile (Tate, 2019) there is a character who records the evidence of violence and massacre which is part of South Africa’s recent history. Felix himself is depicted as the humane and loving alter-ego to the ruthless capitalist white South African psyche.

References

Tate (2010). William Kentridge born 1955 | Tate. [online] Tate. Available at: https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artists/william-kentridge-2680.

Tate (2016). Who is El Anatsui? | Tate. [online] Tate. Available at: https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artists/el-anatsui-17306/who-is-el-anatsui.

Tate (2019) “‘Felix in Exile’, William Kentridge, 1994 | Tate.” Tate, 2019, http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/kentridge-felix-in-exile-t07479.

Apples

Coursework, Creative Arts 1.1 Experience Creative Arts, Creative Arts BA (Hons), Project 2: Encountering Time - A Critical Analysis

What does an apple mean?

Apples appear in many religious traditions often as the forbidden fruit even though an apple specifically isn’t mentioned in the Book of Genesis. The apple has become a symbol of knowledge, immortality, temptation and sin. For example in Adam and Eve by Durer (1507).

There are other instances in the Bible where apples are used in a more positive way, for example, the phrase “the apple of your eye” is used in numerous places which implies an object of great value. In Solomon, the apple is used in a more sensual context and symbol of beauty.

Later in Christianity, it became the symbol of redemption from sin such as in Francisco de Zurbaran’s A Virgem da Maca (1660)

It is also often associated with Venus who is shown holding it as in Rossetti’s Venu Verticordia (1868).

The Trojan war was triggered by an apple – the apple of discord. The apple then became a symbol of evil and chaos through The Judgement of Paris.

Apple as an image of evil remained an interesting concept to many painters. For example, this surrealist painting by Ramaz Razmadze.

In Celtic mythology, the apple represents eternal wisdom and the apple tree is thought to be what the silver branch is made from. The silver branch represents the passage to the Otherworld and Bran’s journey to gain the wisdom to enter.

In Norse myths, apples were the source of immortality and perpetual youth, they were closely guarded by the goddess Iðunn. 

Apples continue to be a symbol of youth and vitality. Many painters use them to represent health.

More contemporary artists continue to use the apple motif. Rene Magritte’s Son of Man appears to return to the orginal sin and temptation representation.

Perhaps one of the most famous apples now. The apple computing logo also refers back to older meanings with Steve Jobs designing it to represent taking a bite out of knowledge.

Apples continue to be a sign of knowledge and learning. “An apple for the teacher” has turned into mass production of apple-shaped gifts for teachers.

Apples seem to have a paradoxical meaning when you look at them across cultures and times. There is a sense of mystery and history associated with them but also a conflict of meaning. Sometimes, good and sometimes bad. A “double-faced” symbol.

There are certainly common themes: forbidden fruit, sin, temptation, youthfulness, health, knowledge.

I am very aware though that my examples may cover a broad time period but they are quite narrow in terms of geography. I am left wondering what apples may mean in different cultures?